art media, paper crafts, self care

Books and reading. Ecology, health, and…origami?

The last two days have been relatively chill. I had another two hours of driving instruction today, which went much better than the previous session. What has helped, as well, is reading. I’m not sure why, but it does calm me down a bit.

Right now I’m reading What the Eyes Don’t See, by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, to get another angle on the Flint, Michigan issue from 2014 (aside from The Poisoned City, which was my introduction to literature on water quality and attendant government corruption in the U.S.). I started it today, and I’m about 1/5 of the way through.

I’m also in the middle of a book called Amity and Prosperity, by Eliza Griswold, which is about fracking in the Appalachians and the plight of residents who had sold their mineral rights, and subsequently lost their clean groundwater and clean air along with their property value, which made it so they didn’t have the resources to leave.

All of these books reveal how the EPA has recently not done its job. Ostensibly — I haven’t heard or read an official announcement — I would think part of that job would be to protect public health. If one were to believe the books and the people the books are about and written by, there’s a lot of evidence that it isn’t doing that. What is it (or has it been) doing? Apparently, trying to cover up what it isn’t (or hasn’t been) doing.

On a lighter note, I’ve also begun reading Origami Design Secrets by Robert Lang, which is basically about how origami is an expression of mathematics as well as design. It’s a relatively huge book (basically a textbook and also a workbook), which I would think could be used in Math classes.

Before I began this entry, I pulled a bunch of the old — really old, really cheap — origami papers I have, and brought them with me to the bed. I’ll have to use the lap desk if I fold them in bed, but it may allow me the comfort of being at least partially warm.

The books I was reading prior (Collapse, by Jared Diamond; and The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert), I’ve basically stopped. I can’t really say why except that I can’t really do anything about us being in the middle of a mass extinction, and by myself, I can’t do much if this country or world decides to self-annihilate.

It may be more worth it to focus on the way out of the problem as versus bemoaning the existence of the problem in the first place, or focusing on possible metaphysical hell scenarios that come with the combination of spirituality plus guilt. It’s easier to just admit we don’t know what happens after death, than it is to fabricate a nightmare about what will happen if we don’t do things right. And in this, there is a difference between what science and data tell us is possible, and stories our imaginations have wrought…which often cannot happen in reality because they violate the rules of logic, or presuppose factors that don’t exist.

On possible solutions, there is a book that caught my eye called Drawdown, by Paul Hawken, which is about ways to help pull carbon dioxide out of the ecosystem in order to reverse global warming. I haven’t read it yet, but it has reminded me that with the pace of change in technology; and with funding, invention, research, and quick action; things may not be as hopeless as they seem.

I say, “quick action,” because I’ve also been reading With Speed and Violence, by Fred Pearce, which is about the way climate change over much of Earth’s history has not been slow and gradual, but sudden and at times extreme. The reason it seems to us like it would be slow and gradual, is basically that humans haven’t been around long enough to witness (or witness and remember, at least) the changes — barring issues like the Mt. Tambora eruption (if it can be called that, more than an explosion) of 1815, which caused the “Year Without Summer.” There is a book about this that I know of (I believe it was the one by Klingaman and Klingaman). The person who told me about it didn’t have anything good to say. :)

As for how I learned about Tambora…that may have been from Guns, Germs, and Steel, by Jared Diamond — the same person who wrote Collapse. I can’t be sure about that, though, due to the fact that I read Guns, Germs, and Steel in undergrad, and that was around two decades ago. (I honestly don’t even know if we still have the book.)

Presently, there are issues like changing ocean currents, melting polar ice, and changing weather patterns, which could wreak havoc if they were to happen suddenly, unexpectedly, and before we could adapt. The major issue, as I see it, is famine. When that’s on a global scale, it gets really scary. When there’s a shortage of natural resources, what tends to happen is war.

I learned from a separate source that melting permafrost could release now-frozen methane into the atmosphere. Methane is a much stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. If this occurred…it could be really bad, depending on how much is released. The major decisive factor is whether we reach the point where global warming leads to more greenhouse gas release, which leads to more warming and more release, etc. As a runaway cycle, it could mean the end of life here as we know it: and we shouldn’t treat this planet as disposable, like we’re going to find another one…which is what it looks like the Space program is seeking.

We don’t want a repeat of what happened to Venus, which has a thick atmosphere of mostly carbon dioxide, extremely high atmospheric pressure, sulfuric acid rain, and surface temperatures hot enough to melt lead. (I know there are extremophile microbes which give me hope that some life might be able to adapt and survive, but the ones I’m thinking of live in volcanic vents, and I don’t know that those get to the +850° F surface temperatures that exist on Venus.)

While Venus may at one time have been able to support life, the chances of that now appear slim.

It’s one thing for I, myself, to die. It’s another thing to take most of the world out with me. Of course, there’s not all that much I can do as one person, but there are some things. Actually talking about it to forward the conversation, may be one thing…as well as educating myself so that I can act, when needed.

And, of course, taking care of myself, so that I don’t self-destruct before I can be of any use.

Although it does feel a little funny to get back to origami after having left off of it as a child…I know for a fact that I can connect it to both quilting and the creation of mandalas. I don’t know quite why, though. I’m hoping that the huge book I got will shed some light on the underlying order.

Plus, it’s just great to see a textbook on paper-folding. :)

I also, though, tonight got the urge to paint, again. That’s, generally speaking, a freer process than consciously utilizing or being constrained by mathematics or language. I don’t have a project lined up, except maybe testing out those Prussian Blue and Viridian paints from separate lines (so that I can donate the tubes I’m not going to use).

And yes, I do have mixed feelings about even this. Given that this post has been about water quality and ecology, I am sure the painters in my audience know what I’m talking about. The way paints are still made, though, it would be…very difficult to insist on using a totally non-toxic palette. When I go there, what first present themselves are inferior pigments, of the like of Prangs. Even there, though; what is harmless to humans is not necessarily harmless to everything else.

I haven’t worked it out, yet. I haven’t worked out whether it is even possible — at all — to live without harming another being. Though, it might be possible to live without harming another being, intentionally…that is, never intending to harm another.

And then we get to the ants and roaches and things of that sort…and we get to never intending to inflict suffering upon another, as versus never intending to harm. Or we question what, “harm,” means.

I’m sure I could get into some more mental gymnastics, here, but this is the major reason I’m not Buddhist.

No. Really.


Reading ’til I get sick

So…let’s see. I want to get back to my art. I haven’t drawn much within the last few days, which is kind of surprising, after all that worry about getting Copics in colors. What I have been doing is reading. A lot.

Right now I’m in the middle of several books, though the anchor is Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond. While I was reading that, I got curious about exactly what made the Flint River acidic (was it natural, or human-caused?), so I found a book on the water crisis in Flint, Michigan — The Poisoned City, by Anna Clark. I also have begun reading The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin.

There are a bunch of other things that have popped up as curiosities as a result of reading Collapse, The Sixth Extinction, Conversations on Writing, The Left Hand of Darkness, etc. For example, I have here a book titled Bad Water by Robert Stolz about an ecological crisis in Japan between 1870 and 1950.

I haven’t looked for Bad Water in libraries, due to the fact that I already own a copy (I believe I found it in a Japanese bookstore, and not in Honolulu)…but the main issue explored was the phenomenon of acid mine drainage, and what happened to the people downriver of a mine when dissolved heavy metals from that drainage contaminated the water they cooked, fished in, grew their crops in, drank, and bathed with. To the best of my knowledge, this is where the term itai itai (“it hurts, it hurts”) originated, as a name for a syndrome that causes decalcification of the bones to the point that they crumble under the weight of the body.

But I haven’t read all the way through the book, yet. It just seemed to fit with — particularly — Collapse, as a human-generated phenomenon that caused an ecological collapse which ended up impacting (and killing) people. Diamond calls it, “ecocide.”

Then there is the entire “fracking” controversy…which I don’t feel ready enough to speak about at this point, but essentially fracking (or “hydraulic fracturing”) is a way to remove natural gas from underground which can make the groundwater toxic. Whether this should even be allowed, is a politically charged conversation in the U.S. On one hand, it reduces dependence on foreign oil reserves. On the other, it can destroy supplies of freshwater.

It does remind me of cyanide heap leaching, which is a way of extracting gold from low-grade ore which causes massive destruction of the environment. The cleanup of this is so expensive that it’s often abandoned and left up to the Federal government. I learned about this in one of my Metals (Jeweling) classes, and it basically (on top of low pay rates, relatively high hazard levels, and necessitation of certain levels of bodily function [e.g. fine motor skills, clear vision]) made me not want to be a Jeweler.

On a different note, I’ve also begun reading Le Guin’s fiction. I have with me The Left Hand of Darkness and The Lathe of Heaven, though I haven’t started the latter. Le Guin, in Conversations on Writing, at least implies, if not outright states, that Virginia Woolf was a large influence on her (from the number of times Woolf is mentioned). This has gotten me curious about giving Woolf’s Orlando a second chance (whereas its opening scene was enough to disgust me, as a younger and more sensitive person). I also have a copy of Middlesex. All three — Orlando, Left Hand of Darkness, and Middlesex — feature gender-shifting. It’s possible that I could use these as the beginning of a reading list.

I’m also reading about Reader’s Advisory service, which is something that library schools tend not to address. That, in turn, is why I’ve begun reading fiction again…I need to know this stuff! I wasn’t doing constant recreational reading during my time as a Library Aide, so I have some catching up to do.

What’s interesting is that the first chapter of Left Hand of Darkness is what has stuck in my mind, the most (out of everything I’ve read recently). It probably has to do with the fact that reading fiction takes co-imagining of the situation described by the text, for the text to actually function.

So…yesterday (Wednesday) I was home and asleep for most of the time, after having stayed up late on Tuesday night (and into Wednesday morning), reading. Particularly…I felt towards the end of Tuesday night that I was starting to get sick with something (coughing, sneezing, nose-blowing), so I stayed home on Wednesday, and slept in, today (Thursday).

Yeah — I really need to regulate my sleep, better.